10 Clean Eating Myths Debunked

With so much nutrition advice out there, it can be hard to figure out who to believe. Diet trends and fads cause confusion about what foods to eat and even when to eat them. Learn the truth behind 10 of the most common clean eating myths. 


Juice Cleanses Help You "Detox"

Young Woman Drinking Green Juice For Cleanse Diet

Getty Images 

You've probably heard that juicing is a good way to detox your body from impurities. But is drinking only freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices for several days at a time a good idea? Not exactly. When you choose juice over whole fruits and vegetables, you're missing out on dietary fiber, an important nutrient that helps your body digest food more slowly and effectively.

By drinking juice, you're also dumping a whole lot of sugar into your bloodstream (even when you're having lower sugar fruits and vegetables), without any fiber, fat, or protein to slow it down. In fact, there is no scientific basis to support the health benefits of juicing over simply including fruits and vegetables in the diet. What's more, juicing might even be more harmful than helpful.

In 2013, for instance, the American Journal of Medicine reported a case of nerve damage brought on by a 6-week juicing fast. Oxalates—a compound in plant foods—can be toxic in high doses. In this case, a patient went into acute renal failure that “was attributable to consumption of oxalate-rich fruit and vegetable juices obtained from juicing.” The patient was able to recover a portion of their kidney functioning, but sustained permanent damage from the juicing program.

The bottom line: Juicing can be a great supplement to a healthy diet, but whole fruits and vegetables provide the same nutrition as juicing with the important addition of dietary fiber.


Fruit Contains "Bad" Sugar

Fruit has sugar in it, no question. The sugar it contains is called fructose, which, along with glucose (another sugar), forms sucrose (granulated sugar). In high doses, fructose is linked with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of health issues that increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease).

If you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, sweet coffee drinks, or even fruit juice, then chances are you might be getting too much fructose in your diet. But when it comes to sugar in fruit, there's little need to worry. Fruit is nutritious because it provides important vitamins and minerals, and it adds minimal fructose to your overall diet. 

High levels of whole fruit consumption is actually associated with weight loss and weight management. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there's actually an inverse relationship between fruit consumption and body weight and the risk of obesity-related diseases.

In addition to fructose, fruit contains fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. It also takes up a lot more volume, which means you'll be less likely to overeat. It takes several apples to get a cup of juice, but if you're eating whole apples, one is enough.

The bottom line: Whole fruits are good for you!


Eating After 6 p.m. Makes You Store Fat

Eating after 6 p.m. (or whatever arbitrary time), doesn't always lead to weight gain. But if you eat more calories than your body burns through exercise or daily activities, then you will likely gain weight.

In addition, people who get the midnight munchies or skimp on food during the day and make up for it in the evening, may also gain weight. If you find that you overeat or consume junk foods in the evening, consider what's really driving your behavior and how to address it so that your eating habits can be more balanced overall.

In some cases, eating before bed might have some health benefits. It appears supplying the body with nutrients before bed can promote positive physiological changes. Those results are enhanced even more when late-night eating is combined with exercise training during the day. 

Remember, though, that eating late at night might cause gastric reflux. If you're affected, you'll need to stay upright (seated or standing) for three hours after eating.

The bottom line: As long as you're making healthy food choices and exercising, then eating before bed can be a good thing (unless you have gastric reflux).


Everyone Should Eat Gluten-Free

Wheat contains a protein called gluten. Going gluten-free is essential for those diagnosed with celiac disease (CD). Currently, that is approximately 1% of the American population. Some people have gluten sensitivity and feel better avoiding foods like wheat and other whole grains.

Many consumers of gluten-free products are not diagnosed with CD but still believe that wheat is unhealthy. Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, asserts that gluten-free is not a healthy choice for those without celiac disease and states that "unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber." The British Journal of Nutrition also reported that gluten-free diets reduced beneficial gut bacteria, which are vital to maintaining a strong immune system.

The bottom line: Gluten-free diets may not be the best choice for everyone. 


Organic Foods Provide Better Nutrients

A health halo often surrounds foods that bear the organic label. But organic food isn't necessarily healthier. There's limited research on the subject, but a clinical review of the evidence suggests that organic produce is not more nutrient-dense than conventional. Also, conventionally farmed chicken and pork were more likely to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the review. 

And when it comes to processed food products, organic cookies and chips aren't any healthier for you. Organic foods can be more expensive than conventional, so knowing that there really isn’t a difference in the nutrient value may offer some reassurance for those on tight budgets.

The bottom line: Organics are preferable not because they contain more nutrients, but because they are treated with fewer pesticides and other toxins than conventional foods.


I Can’t Eat “Bad Foods” Anymore

"Bad foods" can be defined in a number of ways, but doing so (and then forever swearing off those foods) is not healthy or realistic. A healthy diet is a way of eating that you can sustain for the long term.

When it comes to a healthy, balanced diet, black-and-white thinking isn't particularly useful. One way of thinking about a healthy balance is to use the 90-10 rule. Make 90% of your meals and snacks nutritious (and delicious), but save room for 10% to splurge on fun foods.

The bottom line: Choose nutrient-dense foods most of the time, but know that your diet isn't busted if you enjoy a treat occasionally.


Chocolate Isn’t Healthy

It appears not all chocolate is created equal and the darker the better. Dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants. Research suggests that consuming dark chocolate may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The chemical compounds in dark chocolate may improve body function and enhance athletic performance. Eating dark chocolate stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) into the bloodstream. Increased nitric oxide dilates blood vessels for better blood and oxygen flow to working muscles.

The bottom line: Eating dark chocolate may be good for your heart.


Don’t Eat Egg Yolks

Many people toss their egg yolks believing them to be unhealthy, but according to research, these contain valuable nutrients. Egg yolks have essential fatty acid compounds beneficial to our cells. They also contain important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

In addition, research suggests that eating whole eggs may increase metabolism and good cholesterol (HDL). Increasing HDL is recommended for heart health and is accomplished through healthy eating and exercise.

The bottom line: Eating a whole egg daily provides quality protein and beneficial nutrients.


Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight

We have all heard that in order to lose weight, we should stop eating carbohydrates. The truth is that there is a difference in the types of carbs you should be eating and they don’t always contribute to weight gain. Consuming more calories than you burn through daily activities and exercise is what causes an increase in fat stores.

Eating complex carbs helps with weight loss, body fat reduction, and improved muscle growth. Carbohydrates are our primary energy source and vital for optimal body functioning. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are great examples of nutritious carbohydrates to include in a healthy diet. These "good" carbs contain essential nutrients and fiber and provide sustained energy throughout the day. Carbs support optimal fitness levels, improved digestion, and reduce the risk of heart disease and other illness.

Consuming carbs lacking in nutrient value may contribute to health issues and eventual weight gain. Examples of carbohydrates to avoid include sugary drinks, white bread, processed foods, and ice cream. 

The bottom line: Carbs don’t necessarily cause weight gain, and there is a difference between "good" and "bad" carbohydrates. Choose nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables whenever possible.


Carbonated Drinks Are Bad For You

Many people think that bubbly drinks are bad for you, but some carbonated beverages can be considered healthy. Carbonated waters help people who struggle to drink enough regular water meet their daily fluid requirements. Staying hydrated is an important part of staying healthy.

The ingredients are what make certain carbonated drinks good or bad for you. Drinks that include sugar, additives, and preservatives wouldn’t be a healthy choice.

Carbonated drink that are simply water made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas are good for you. Sometimes people may experience bloating or gas with carbonated water, and there's also a potential risk of tooth enamel erosion over time. Otherwise, plain bubbly water is just as hydrating and healthy as regular water.

The bottom line: Plain fizzy waters are healthy alternatives to regular water.

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